Key Legislature: Wizards 99 vs Knicks 89 — Defensive Switch Awakens the Offense | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 99 vs Knicks 89 — Defensive Switch Awakens the Offense

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Updated: March 20, 2016

TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards vs Knicks, Regular Season Game 69, March 19, 2016, by Kyle Weidie (@truth_about_it), from the Verizon Center.

Wizards and Knicks fans alike, sleepily and sheepishly, gathered into an arena in the nation’s capital on Saturday night to observe their respective teams. For the Knicks, another lost season is tapering off but not without real and perceived hope—Kristaps Porzingis is actually good; Carmelo Anthony hasn’t forced himself out of New York, yet; and Phil Jackson will surely ramp up efforts against unreal expectations heading into 2016-17. The Wizards are on the verge of losing another season, which would be particularly disappointing (and potentially franchise changing) after stacking (sometimes haphazardly) building blocks over previous seasons in the John Wall era. They are trying to claw their way into the last seed in the playoffs, while the fans they so want to appease struggle between looking forward and coping with the meaning of potentially sneaking into the eighth seed just to face Cleveland.

Nonetheless, it’s called NBA basketball. And per that, the Wizards didn’t come out against the visiting Knicks with any energy, according to Bradley Beal, and to paraphrase John Wall: they didn’t stay woke. New York got up by as many as 18 points in the first half, five more than Washington’s largest lead of 13 on the night. But Randy Wittman was satisfied in the manner in which the Wizards eventually persevered to win the game, 99-89.

“This was the first time in a long time we sustained our play through bad offensive play … I wouldn’t call it bad offensive play, we missed some open shots to start the game,” the head coach said. And this truth was part of the story—mostly thanks to Otto Porter, who went 0-for-5 in the first quarter via a number of wide-opens shots. Perhaps he was overwhelmed with having to guard Carmelo Anthony from the tip, while Markieff Morris checked New York’s Kristaps Porzingis. Anthony scored eight points in the first quarter (4-7 FGs), abused the defending Alan Anderson late in the period, and even picked up three assists. Once, Anthony made the Wizards pay for sending a second defender to help Porter—Melo’s zip pass secured a jumper for Porzingis. Other Knicks quickly got on the record by following suit with their respective marks. Derrick Williams had a drive past Jared Dudley; Kevin Seraphin hit a jumper on Nene; and earlier in the game, Morris and Porzingis exchanged midrange jumpers with the rookie getting the final say.

As the four-minute mark in the second quarter approached, Washington’s dreadful parade of missed shots continued—the Wiz had yet to crack 30 points (28), while the Knicks had 46 on the board (the game’s largest lead). Bradley Beal was either missing layups or his team could not get him the ball with Wall taking a rest on the bench. Anderson and Dudley missed back-to-back open 3-pointers on the same possession. Porzingis sent Knicks fans into a frenzy with a block of Ramon Sessions. Garrett Temple also tried to guard Anthony, and bothered him more than others, but he was no more effective than the other wings Wittman threw at the Knicks’ superstar.

But the tide started to change near the end of the second quarter when Wittman’s fourth choice to defend Melo became Morris, and it worked (Otto switched to Porzingis). Pumped by a made Morris 3-pointer at the 4:01 mark, the Wizards closed the second period on a 15-7 run to enter the locker room down 43-53. With Morris on him, Anthony operated further away from the basket and passing lanes over the top of the defender didn’t exist as much.

The generally-reserved-with-the-media Morris made the point simple after the game: “He is a great scorer so wanted to get more size on him, be a little physical with him, and keep him away from the basket a little bit more.”

The third quarter came and Wittman kept Markieff on Melo, and this was the difference-maker, i.e., the key legislature. Anthony went 1-for-6 with two turnovers (one assist) in all 12 third-quarter minutes as the Wizards seized momentum with a 33-13 period. Efforts were clearly also aided by Marcin Gortat deciding to rebound and out-play Robin Lopez (11 points, 5 rebounds in the third for Gortat); aided by Beal getting aggressive and working some two-man game with Gortat. Wall continuing to provide the spark on this evening, by revving pick-and-score engines with Morris, who caught an oop dunk from Wall and hit the gas with his own put-back jam in the third.

Better offense reinforced in-game adjustments with defensive matchups for the Wizards. The Knicks were held to just two field goals (two 3s) for six total points after the eight-minute mark of the third. The Wizards turned a 10-point deficit at halftime to a 10-point advantage entering the fourth quarter, 76-66.

As is commonplace this season, New York didn’t just fade away against these Wizards. The Knicks started banging home 3s (5-11) and collecting assists (6 on 8 FGs) in the fourth quarter. Washington’s reserves tried to hold fast but those 3s killed them. Wall’s re-entry into the game at the 7:22 mark was sandwiched by two Porzingis 3-pointers, one assisted by Langston Galloway and one by Anthony. This put the Knicks within five points, 80-85, before Morris immediately canned a jumper to answer. A Carmelo 3 at the 4:20 mark to keep the Knicks within 85-89 kept the threat real.

But a wild Otto Porter appeared!

The goat earlier in the game for missing open shots, getting strong-armed by Anthony, and bumbling possessions in a haze, Porter then saved the night. He scored three of the Wizards’ final four field goals (8 points, two 3s). All three of his makes were assisted by different Wizards—Morris, Wall, and Beal. Washington’s only other bucket during a closing stretch defined by lock-down the defense was a put-back dunk by Morris. Putting the Knicks to rest with stops entailed: 1) offensive boards from Porter, 2) Morris forcing Anthony into a tough miss, 3) Wall and Beal playing increased pressure defense, 4) and one good pick-and-roll defensive possession, featuring Morris and Gortat, that thwarted any action from Anthony and Lopez.

It wasn’t a Wizards team at its potential, but it was the Wizards team we know. Early on, John Wall was the only driver, the only one attacking. The coaching strategy and motivation might have been lacking early, but the team countered well and survived. Washington’s bigs and guards alike got beat on the glass early (19-27 at half) but evened up their efforts in the second half (23-15). And Otto Porter, somewhat counted upon to develop into a third cog as a third overall pick, fought against self-inflicted perception with surprise play when it counted.

Fitting with the evening—a cold, rainy, misty last day of winter—the Wizards didn’t lose any ground. They didn’t gain any ground, either—the Bulls beat the Jazz by seven in Chicago and the Pistons beat the Nets by 12 in Detroit. Chicago sits in eighth, Detroit is tied in the “games back” column in ninth, and Washington sits 1.5 games back of each in 10th. On Monday, the Pistons host the Bucks, the Bulls host the Kings, and the Wizards visit the Hawks. Which brings us to the two types of Wizards fans that exist: ones who better enjoy the roller coaster when it’s going up, and those who prefer the feeling when it’s going down.

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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.